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Advances in the Use of Protein-Based Materials: Toward Sustainable Naturally Sourced Absorbent Materials

Capezza, A. J.; Newson, W. R.; Olsson, R. T.; Hedenqvist, M. S.; Johansson, E.


Superabsorbent polymers (SAPs) are important in the health-care and personal care industries. Products like bed pads and diapers improve the comfort and sanitary conditions for people all over the world, with SAPs reaching yearly production volumes of ca. 2 million tons. However, recent sustainability issues have questioned the high negative footprint of polymers from nonrenewable resources. Biomacromolecules, especially when functionalized, have properties that make them an attractive alternative for the production of biobased SAPs. Proteins are a particularly interesting alternative due to their high variability and because of their relatively low price, being available as side streams from the agricultural industries. Due to the harsh extraction conditions, these side stream proteins are not competing with the food industry and alternative source-effective uses are advantageous in a circular bioeconomy. As the properties of a SAP material come from a combination of neutralized functional groups to promote polar liquid uptake and intermolecular cross-links to prevent dissolution, proteins offer unique opportunities due to their variability in polymerization. An increased understanding of the protein characteristics and how these can be tuned through functionalization is therefore a prerequisite for the successful development of a commercial biobased SAP that utilizes industrial and nontoxic wastes toward more sustainable products. This review focuses on proteins as biomacromolecules with relevant characteristics for superabsorbent functions, and discusses the opportunities that they may offer toward sustainable SAPs utilizing nontoxic chemicals and following the green chemistry principles.


Superabsorbent; Polymer; Protein; Sustainability; Absorption; Functionalization

Publicerad i

ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering
2019, Volym: 7, nummer: 5, sidor: 4532-4537